A brother and sister who have been kept in strict isolation to protect their father are finally returning to school – after 14 months.
Siblings Amelia and William Priddy have been learning at home for more than a year after their dad was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Greg Priddy, 45, has undergone invasive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant which weakened his immune system – so contracting Covid could be fatal to him.
But, ahead of the removal of restrictions in England, the teens, from Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, are going back to school today (21/2).
They will be wearing masks and leaving the classrooms five minutes early to avoid crowds between lessons and stay safe.
Amelia, 16, said: “It’s been hard work trying to keep up with everyone, as my remote lessons seem to take longer than they do in class.
“My teachers have been brilliant though, always at the end of an email and happy to help.
“Miss Macaree and Miss Claringbull even did doorstep visits, bringing school supplies to the house, which was so kind of them.”
Will, 13, added: “I’m still a bit worried I’ll bring germs home to Dad but we’re being extra careful.
“I can’t wait to see my best friend, Joshua, in person, rather than on a screen. I’ve missed PE lessons too but unfortunately won’t be able to play rugby again just yet.
“Mostly I’m just excited to go back to school and to be back in the classroom with my friends.”
Up until this week, the kids had been homeschooled by mum Jo, 41, and accounts manager Greg has worked from home.
None of the family have gone to the shops or restaurants, relying on neighbors and online shopping, and nobody has set foot in their home since December 2020.
And they’ve not mixed with friends and family, apart from socially distanced walks, and even exercised in their garden to avoid others.
However, medics are now hopeful that Greg’s antibodies have increased to make him more resilient to Covid, and they are able to leave the house.
The kids’ school has put in place exceptional measures for the pair, such as allowing them to leave class five minutes early to avoid crowds in between lessons.
They will also continue to wear masks and won’t take part in close-contact sports during PE.
Jo, a school examinations invigilator, said: “Greg’s diagnosis and treatment meant he was clinically extremely vulnerable, so we have shut ourselves away in order to keep him safe.
“The kids have found it tricky at times; their lives have been turned upside-down and they’ve been separated from their friends.
“That said, they’ve coped amazingly well, showing immense resilience, and Greg and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Greg received his shock diagnosis of primary brain CNS lymphoma (PCNSL) after displaying strange behaviour.
This included leaving the front door open at night or turning all the lights on in the house.
A few days before his first MRI, he also experienced weakness in his left-hand side – which made Jo suspect he’d had a stroke.
They discovered the tumor in November 2020, and by New Year’s Eve knew it was inoperable.
Greg then underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant to kill the cancer cells.
This dangerously weakened his immune system, forcing him and his family to shield to protect him from Covid, which could be fatal.
The family has received support from Magna Carta School, with teachers ensuring they have the supplies and support they need.
Dad Greg said: “They’ve been so understanding and helped the kids every step of the way.
“Mr Gallagher was the inspiration behind Will’s back garden challenges, after he advised Will to ‘do something positive in hard times’ to help stay focused during lockdown.
“The fact Will has gone on to raise more than £14,000 for Brain Tumor Research is just incredible.”
William has fundraised for charity Brain Tumor Research by running a daily mile in his back garden for a whole year, as well as a marathon – or 1,992 laps – last October.
He upped his distance to four miles throughout December while wearing a different festive costume each day.
Amelia performed sponsored dance routines and sold homemade resin keyrings to assist with the fundraising.
Greg is in remission and having regular scans to check on his tumors, but now doctors believe he has developed enough antibodies from his Covid vaccine for the family to stop shielding so strictly.
Proud mum Jo said: “The way in which Amelia and Will have embraced fundraising to help get them through this tough time, is so inspirational.
“They’ve also been a great support to one another – if Will has got stuck with some schoolwork, Amelia has stepped in to help.
“I’m amazed that there’ve been no rows at all!”
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumor Research, said: “The Priddy family adopted such a positive attitude in spite of the adversity they faced and we couldn’t be more grateful for the fundraising and awareness-raising they’ve done for the charity.
“I’m so pleased that they’re gradually able to get back to some kind of ‘normality’, with Amelia and Will’s long-awaited return to school.”
To support William’s ongoing fundraising, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/william-priddy1